Gary: Dave and Tom respond to questions from listeners and readers of The Berean Call. Our question this week:
Dear Dave and Tom, I’d like to share an experience I had while attending a student music concert at a Christian school and get your comments. While many of the songs were lovely, I almost fell out of my seat upon hearing the first line of Amazing Grace. The lyrics were changed from “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me,” to “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved someone like me.” Since when have sinners, saved by grace, been upgraded from wretches?
Tom: Hey, Dave, the first thing that hits me in this question is: “Amazing Grace” has been downgraded. That is, it’s not so amazing if the person wasn’t so bad after all.
Dave: Right. It’s part of the influence of psychology in the church. We don’t want to be negative. We don’t want to put anybody down. And some Christian psychologists go so far as to suggest you couldn’t even believe that God loves you if you’re unworthy of His love. If you’re wretched. You’ve got to feel that you’re good enough for God to want to save you, and that Christ didn’t die for sinners—He died for “somebodies.” And it supposedly gives us a sense of self-worth, so we can love ourselves and feel good about ourselves, and that’s why apparently God loves us.
But love isn’t dependent upon the object of the love. True love isn’t just “love the lovely, the lovable.” But love is in God. God is love. And Christ died for sinners. He did die for wretches. I mean, this is what the Bible says. Christ Jesus came into the world to save “somebodies” or “someones”? No! To save sinners! If I’m not a sinner, I don’t need to be saved. That’s the whole point of the Bible.
Tom: Dave, Ephesians:2:1-3, this lays it all out: “We’re dead in trespasses and sin. We once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air. We were sons of disobedience who were after the lusts of the flesh, fulfilling desires of the flesh and the mind. By nature, we were children of wrath.”
Dave: Are you getting all of this out of the Bible? All of this negative stuff? (sarcastically)
Tom: See, it doesn’t give a very good image of “me.” But it certainly exalts—it certainly makes grace amazing!
Dave: Yes, it does! And it exalts God for loving us, and that Christ would stoop so low, you know. Some would try to say, “Well, the price that He paid on the cross, that shows what you’re worth and that ought to make you feel good.” No! The deeper He had to sink into the horror of what we are, the worse the penalty that He had to pay, which is beyond our comprehension. That doesn’t make me feel good about myself. It’s because I’m unworthy! And that gives me a love for God that I couldn’t otherwise have, and it’s cause of rejoicing!
Tom: Well, let’s take John Newton, for example, the writer who wrote the hymn, Amazing Grace.” Now, here’s a guy—I mean, he’s a slave trader! He’s a reprobate. He’s absolutely without any socially redeeming value, as they might say. Why does he write this song? Why does he call himself a wretch? Because he was! And because he recognized how amazing God’s grace is and was!
Dave: Mm-hmm. Not only was but is! Paul said, “I am less than the least of all saints.” He said, “I am the chief of sinners.” And we don’t get beyond that. I will always be a sinner saved by grace.
Tom: Psychology would say, “Oh, don’t think like that! Because if that’s the way you think, then your thinking is going to lead to how you going to act and how you’re going to perform, and that’s not good.”
Dave: I tell you, it gives you a greater gratitude. A greater love for God—that He would do this for me? Well, Tom, let’s put it like this: Jeremiah—God, speaking through Jeremiah, said, “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. Who can know it? I, the Lord, search the heart …” David, Psalm 139, said, “Search me, O God, and know my heart.”
I don’t even know how wicked I am! Because my heart is deceitful. I don’t even understand sin. I mean, I can think I’m doing pretty well, but if I could see things from God’s standpoint—“He dwells in a light that no man can approach unto, who no man has seen nor can see.” God is so far beyond us that for me to imagine that I’m doing okay—and sin is defined as “coming short of the glory of God.” I don’t even understand how far short I come from God’s glory. So to try to “build me up,” to make me feel that then I would be worth it for Christ to die for me—no! He saved a wretch! I mean…and a wretch that is more wretched than he understands! So that song ought to have been made worse, not tried to make it better.
Tom: Right. Dave, let me close with a quote from John Newton. You talked about being 74. This was when he was 82, he writes: “My memory is nearly gone, but I remember two things: that I am a great sinner, and that Christ is a great Savior.”